Confessions of a Seed Order Procrastinator

I haven’t yet purchased my seeds.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it, studying catalogs, even filling out forms. In fact, I’ve already ordered hundreds of packets of seeds, but those were the result of a selection process by members of our local food co-op for seed rack sales. They arrived at the store a couple of days ago.

But for my own garden? I’m almost through the process of figuring out which varieties I’ll get from which company–either because one variety I really like is only available in one place, or because the number of seeds in the packet is different depending on the source. After all, 30 seeds of any one squash variety is far more than I have use for.

So, I was approaching readiness with Johnny’s, Pine Tree, Territorial, and Seed Savers (and taking into account the High Mowing and Prairie Road Organic Seed I’ve picked up at conferences), when a disruptive well-meaning friend dropped off her Baker Creek catalog, which I’d not gotten this year. Shockingly, I had not planned on trying any new tomatoes this year–as a result of the disaster that was my 2013 town house garden, leaving some of last year’s new varieties still new-to-me.

Now? Now I’ve got eight or nine more new-to-me heirlooms on the docket. So many tomato varieties, so few years to garden in a lifetime.

Not my best garden ever.

Not my best garden ever.

I’ve since sold the Clinton house, so this year all the gardens will be on the farm. Over the years of market gardening, CSA, and home gardens, I’ve learned that living in the same place you plant is the ideal situation if you can get it–though looking back it’s surprising how much I produced without that being the case.

Mixed tomatoes 2

Cherry tomatoes 2009

tomato basket 2

In 2005, when I started CSA sales down in Southeastern South Dakota, I’d planned on renting the same plots I’d been using for market gardening out on the western edge of town. Several people had signed up (and paid) for their shares, and I was at a farming conference when I got the call from the owner of that land, saying he’d sold it for housing development.

Cue: a mad scramble for suitable garden space. I ended up in two places a few miles apart north of town (one of which was split between three other gardeners), and tried to grow every vegetable under the sun. It was a steep learning curve that first year, but I managed to fill the bags every week for 26 weeks, and the next year I dumped the one place (susceptible to both flooding and herbicide drift) and displaced the other gardeners on the second. My friend H gamely expanded the usable area every year after that, so ultimately it was divided into five gardens of varying sizes for a good rotation.

early spring garden

Spring at Flying Tomato Farms, circa 2007

I am considering getting back into market gardening this year after a few year’s hiatus, but I can’t imagine going at it like I did back then. The farmers market (and the population) here isn’t anywhere near the size of Vermillion’s (though, to be fair–Ortonville’s market is bigger now than Vermillion’s was when I started), and I’m wondering how many years it might take for me to sell a single daikon radish (there, it took 3 or 4).

Of course, back in 2005, I didn’t imagine the scale I’d be at when I left in 2010, or how game people would be to try new things. Stinging nettle, anyone? No, really, they’re delicious! And there is a lot of room out on our farm….

But first, I’d better order my seeds.

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2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Seed Order Procrastinator

  1. Rebecca, I am not ready to do a CSA, but I am going to try market gardening. Have you ever tried bio intensive planting in beds? Or inter planting with both veggies and flowers?

    • Caitlin–I am not sure what is meant by “bio intensive planting.” If it means planting several different species closely in raised beds (with special attention paid to the fertility and tilth of the soil), then yes, I have done some of that, and will be doing more of it this year where I can.

      I also interplant veggies and flowers (and herbs–always herbs!), though I don’t believe it’s a silver bullet for pest control, and it isn’t always pre-planned. Last year I had a lot of volunteer bachelor buttons, some of which ended up in with my beans, transplanted in with the tomatoes and peppers, etc. I’ve interplanted nasturtiums with squash as well–I still did have squash and cuke beetles that year (they are supposed to help ward them off), but I also had pretty and edible nasturtium flowers and leaves.

      I also like to let my perennial green onions bloom because they seem to attract a lot of pollinators (and the blossoms are edible, too). A couple of the years I market gardened I planted a 50′ row of zinnias in the garden, even though cut flower sales at our market were always abysmal. Who cares? Seed’s cheap, and if you’ve got the space, a big bed of bright flowers makes you amazingly happy every time you step into the garden, you get bouquets for your house and your friends, prettify your market table, and attract people even if they only buy the veggies, and it’s popular with the bees and butterflies, too. 🙂

      BTW–interplanting annual or perennial herbs (pretty much all of which end up having flowers that are pollinator and other beneficial insect-attracting) is also really fun, and a really good use of space because many of them can fit really nicely in among bigger vegetable plants, and some can take some shade, too.

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